Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
> 
> John, 
> 
> I apologise if you thought I was referring to you in any way: I was just 
> trying to 
> make a general point about how we come to accept some beliefs and reject 
> others. 
> Perhaps I should not have used the pejorative terms, but I think it is a fair 
> question: 
> how do we know if a belief is crazy or stupid? Nature does not care about 
> epistemology, only about utility, and brains have evolved to process evidence 
> and 
> arrive at conclusions because it assists survival. Psychotic illness disrupts 
> the normal 
> reasoning process and leads to delusions. The most important feature of these 
> is not 
> that they are false, but that they occur as a result of a pathological 
> process which 
> leads to morbidity and sometimes mortality. 
> 
> You make an interesting point about fixed *true* beliefs, not covered by the 
> definition 
> I gave below: it is actually possible to be right but still be delusional. 
> For example, a 
> patient believes with utter conviction that his wife was having an affair 
> with his neighbour 
> because the neighbour painted his fence green and green is her favourite 
> colour.  
> The patient is treated with antipsychotic medication and after a few weeks 
> realises that 
> it was crazy to come to the conclusion that he did and apologises to his wife 
> and the 
> neighbour, whom he had confronted prior to treatment. Months later, his wife 
> leaves him 
> for the neighbour: it turns out that they had been having an affair all 
> along! Nevertheless, 
> the patient had still been delusional because (a) most reasonable people 
> would see the 
> conclusion he drew from the green fence, and the conviction with which he 
> held it, as very 
> dubious, and (b) he himself saw the conclusion as dubious after treatment 
> with antipsychotic 
> medication.
> 
> Stathis Papaioannou

This is an example of Edmund Gettier's theory of epistemology.  He pointed out 
that a true belief can't be  knowledge unless it has a causal relation to the 
thing believed.  His example was a man who thought his coworker had bought a 
new car because he saw him drive a new one to work.  In fact the man was trying 
out his son's car, but coincidentally he had bought a new car. He just didn't 
drive it to work.

Brent Meeker

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